What is it we love about teddy bears? A tiny bear, a soft bear, a bear your nana made or one found at a thrift shop or maybe a ridiculously large bear from Costco. All those things are fun but to really love a bear you have to look into its little (or big) face and as it looks back at you your heart must melts. Making a basic teddy is not very hard. There are thousands of patterns out there to choose from but turning fur and fluff into someones best friend is an art. It takes experimentation, practice and a lifetime of evolution. Like becoming a great painter a bear maker should start by looking at great works that have come before and study the nuances that make them great.
I started my bear making adventure with a book by Sue Quinn, How to Make Heirloom Teddy Bears. As it happens, her book has three bears – a tiny bear, a little bear and big bear. I started with the little bear Archie – I named my bear TedZ and he is my first traditional jointed teddy bear. I thought he came out great, so I made another bear. Bear 2 was made from the same pattern and materials as Tedz. The only change I made intentionally was the mouth but the bears are very different. If I were to assess their personalities visually I would stay TedZ is a very serious bear and Bear 2 is, well, dopey. So what are the differences. Because I was educated as an egineer I felt if was time for a study. What were the differences that gave each bear its personality?
- I shaved their noses differently (it’s hard to get them the same).
- TedZ’s ears are higher and slightly more forward than Bear 2’s
- Bear 2’s ears are crooked (an accident).
- TedZ has a rectangular nose (the embroidered bit) and Bear 2’s nose is more oval.
- TedZ has a down turned mouth with no lip extension and Bear 2 is slightly smiling (only slightly)
This initial analysis gave me a start at my experimentation. I have made quite a few more bears and here are some of the results.
Here are 5 more bear faces to compare. Max and the Professor are the exact same pattern as TedZ with the same size eyes (4mm black glass). The Professor’s eyes are closer together and higher and his face is shaved differently (more oval). For Sad bear I modified the pattern to have cheek darts, making the face wider. In Timmy and Rosco I used the wider face with larger eyes (6mm black glass) and Rosco has the biggest nose. There are some visual differences in the angle at which I photographed the bears which can cause there noses to look longer or short but that is an illusion.
Shaving the Nose and Backing color
All if the bears so far are made from Buttercup fur (that is the color name) from the same manufacturer (InterCal Trading Group). The Professor and Sad Bear have apricot colored backing and the others have backing that matches the fur. Max, Timmy and Rosco have round shaved are where Sad Bear has a triangle shave and The Professor has an oval shave with higher narrower eyes.
Turn that Frown Upside Down
I was not terribly happy with the way Sad Bear turned out. He just seemed grumpy so I redid his nose and mouth. I’m still not quite sure that I have found his true self but I will keep trying.
Observe and Learn
I have created a Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/dotshots/blog-bear-faces/ page for you to look at that has a wide variety a bear faces for you to consider. Look closely at them. Ask yourself what does their face tell you about their personality and what are the features of the face that leads your to feel that way. If you want to make great bears you must do it with intension. You must study what others have done and ask yourself how does each feature affect the bears personality. Here is a list of things to consider when learning from the Masters.
- Eye size
- Eye spacing
- Eye distance from nose
- Snout Shape – Long, pointy, flat, square, etc.
- Nose style – plastic, embroidered
- Ear Position
- Ear Size
- Face shape
- Head size compared to body
Don’t be afraid to experiment or to modify. Making a great bear is a process.
Next article: Turning Your Ideas Into a Pattern